Course Syllabus

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) from a European Perspective.

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  Armed Conflict & Humanitarian Law | Oxford Law Faculty

Semester & Location:

Spring 2022 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core - 3 credits

Study Tours:

Geneva, Switzerland

Major Disciplines:

International Relations, Political Science, Pre-Law, Legal Studies


Students must master basic political science and/or international law. 

Faculty Members:

Steen Kjaergaard

Dorthe Bach Nyemann

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Program Contact:

Embla Thorsdottir, 

Time & Place:

Mondays & Thursdays 0830 - 0950

Location: Fiolstræde 44 (Fi44-Kosmo 402)


Course Description

This course provides students tools to reflect on the international legal regulation of armed conflict in the context of international law, historic and contemporary conflicts and challenges associated with the application of armed force for political objectives. The aim of the course is to enable students to understand the legal challenges of the current and future armed conflicts, as well as enable them to critically analyze and evaluate concrete cases using both legal and political analysis. This is achieved by applying knowledge from readings and classes to a number of contemporary case studies.

The course is composed of three sections.

In the first section, we introduce the academic field of international law and provide the student with an overview of international humanitarian law e.g. the sources of law, conflict classification, the basic principles and a broad overview of the most important rules regulation armed conflict. 

In section two, we dive into the contemporary challenges of IHL and engage the students in the analysis regarding issues i.e. the problem of diminishing compliance, modern technology and methods in warfare and the interplay with European Human Rights Law (IHRL).

In section three,  we apply the law to selected cases to foster critical thinking and individual reflection.

Learning Objectives

Through selected readings, class discussions, study tours and various assignments, the objectives of this course are for the students to:

  • Understand the historical development and nature of International Humanitarian Law including the humanitarian movement in Europe since 1859.
  • Understand and apply the general principles and rules of International Humanitarian Law.
  • Apply the rules of International Humanitarian Law to concrete cases in both international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflicts.
  • Understand the interplay between humanitarian law, European human rights law and international criminal law.
  • Analyze and discuss the challenges related to regulating the usage of modern technology in armed conflicts eg. artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and cybering of the reality and practical concerns affecting the implementation of obligations under international law;
  • Identify and discuss the main issues related to enhancing compliance to International Humanitarian Law in contemporary conflicts.



Dorthe Bach Nyemann

DIS Copenhagen Semester Faculty

Master in Politics and History from University of Copenhagen 2000. Graduated in courses on International Law at the Master of International Security and Law from the University of Southern Denmark 2015. Worked as a teacher and planner of education at the Danish Army Academy for Junior Officers from 2005 to 2015. Currently employed at the Royal Danish Defence College researching cyber security and hybrid threats. Areas of expertise as a teacher are International Relations, International Law, and the art of writing large assignments. Engaged in international working groups related to the topic of my research. With DIS since 2021.

Steen Kjærgaard

DIS Copenhagen Semester Faculty

Master of Arts in International Security from the University of Leicester (UK) 2018. Graduated Joint Command and Staff College (MA) 2010. Commissioned as an Army officer in 1996, after having served as NCO since 1989. Multiple international deployments to conflict zones. Currently works at the Royal Danish Defense College, as a military analyst focusing on security issues such as military security, Counter-Terrorism and International Law. Served in the Danish Defense Intelligence service. With DIS Spring 2018 and again in Spring and Summer 2019


Students must master basic political science and/or international law. 


During the course, the student must produce two reflective blog journals and a final essay. Furthermore, the student must play a proactive role in the conduct of Moot court role play and airpower targeting exercise. Finally, critical participation (preparation for class, active participation during discussions in class with inputs based on facts, law, analysis and reflection) is required.

See the assignment tab for instructional details.


Activity Weight Remark
Reflective blog journals  25% 1200 words excl. bibliography
Final Essay 50% 2500 words excl. bibliography
Participation in class 25%


Note: Some of the readings might be subject to change during the course, but students will receive any new readings in due time to prepare for class.

Field Studies

Field Study 1: Visit to Danish Institute for Human Rights in Copenhagen. The objective is to peruse interplay between International Humanitarian Law and European Human Rights law.

Field Study 2: Danish Liberations Day - Visit to WW-II memorial (Mindelunden - Ryvangen).

Guest Lecturers

Dr Marc Schack; Regulation of cyber warfare.

Dr Iben Yde; Regulating artificial intelligence in weaponry.

Approach to Teaching

This course will be a combination of lectures and a discussion-based course using case studies as well as group work. The teaching will facilitate a reflective learning process as well as critical and constructive feedback, that aims to sharpen the analytical skills as well as the overall academic methodology of the students. Faculty strive to apply modern didactics and learning methods i.e. flipped classroom philosophy.

Reading reflections techniques will be applied.

Expectations of the Students

As the course is partly a discussion-based course and case studies, a high degree of student participation, preparation and engagement are required. Throughout the course, you will also have to develop and practice your own critical thinking by analyzing texts, concepts as well as specific cases to understand the complexity of the field of international law.

Study Tours

Study tours are an integral part of the core course as we take the classroom on the road and see how the theory presented in the classroom is translated into practice in the field.

You will travel with your classmates and DIS faculty/staff on a study tour to Western Jutland and Geneva in Switzerland. 

In the short study tour, we will explore the West of Denmark based around Esbjerg. The overarching theme will be regulation of the use of landmines and challenges and perspectives centred around political aspects of demining. We will use WW-II as a case. The beaches around Esbjerg was heavily mined during the war. And demining was only completed recently. Furthermore, we will study the case of the Wadden Sea South of Esbjerg which was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2009. 

In the long study tour, we will travel to Geneva in Switzerland.  The overarching theme for the tour is to explore perspectives on the neutrality status of Switzerland and the special role it has given the city of Geneva as the international hub for humanity i.e. international organizations, peace processes and not least International Humanitarian Law. In Geneva, we will visit the International Committee of The Red Cross and Red Crescent and follow the humanitarian trail of the red cross. We will particularly focus on the special status of the ICRC as the proponent for IHL and its efforts to enhance compliance towards IHL. We will visit various international organizations e.g. UNHCR where we will focus on refugee law, The Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and The Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue(Hd) where we will focus on the prospects of humanitarian mediation. Not least, we will enjoy the unique culture of central Europe and not least the alps. 

 Expectations for study tours:

  • Participate in all activities.
  • Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to achieving the learning objectives.
  • Respect the destination, the speakers, DIS staff, and your fellow classmates.
  • Represent yourself, your home university and DIS in a positive light.

While on a program study tour DIS will provide hostel/hotel accommodation, transportation to/from the destination(s), approx. 2 meals per day and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure.

Travel policies:

You are required to travel with your group to the destination. If you have to deviate from the group travel plans, you need approval from the program director and the study tours office.   

Course Summary:

Date Details Due